“A good recording will sound good regardless of a higher sample rate or bit depth”. This was posted in response to a short discussion over at AVS Forum in a thread that Scott Wilkinson started in support of the “Music and Audio” A User Guide To Better Sound”. Ethan Winer wrote the comment. Although I don’t believe I’ve met Ethan, I have his book, “The Audio Expert” and have read a number of his posts on various online sites. I think my thoughts on high-resolution audio align more closely with his than with other more subjective writers and reviewers. But we do have a difference of opinion on high-res music.
I was surprised at a number of the comments that preceded Ethan’s. The very first one was simply “LOL”. Apparently, this individual has already figured everything out and doesn’t feel the need to learn anything new about good quality audio or actually hear what it sounds like.
Another comment was more sympathetic, “I think this is great! Mark is one of the few guys that will out right say Hi-Res is not for you and/or your system so stop spending money. It should be mandatory for any one that is thinking of buying equipment or getting content to hear what Mark has to say.”
As the comments continued, the focus seemed to come back to the belief that CD spec audio is enough. Advocates argue that there is no sonic advantage to higher sample rates and longer word lengths. I would tend to agree for the vast majority of commercially released discs being released by labels…both the majors and independents. Honestly, CDs will more than capture the musical material produced by artists across a wide variety of genres. Ethan’s comment speaks to that…”a good recording will sound good” if played from a CD or a CD-spec file. But the essential question is whether a great recording will benefit from being recorded at 96 kHz/24-bits? I believe it will.
One of the AVS hard core commented:
“What do you mean by high-res audio? Higher sampling rate? Higher than 48Khz? If so, why are we still debating what Claude Shannon proved over 60 years ago? More than 44 or 48KHz is a waste of bits, its the ‘speaker cable’ marketing hype fiasco all over again. For mastering, yes ok, for consuming; pointless. It’s not an opinion, its fact, just as much as Newton’s Laws or Einstein’s Relativity.
If you’re talking about greater bit-depth then fair enough, I’m all for it, especially for orchestral recordings or anything with lots of dynamic range (which isn’t much these days sadly)”.
The answer to the question above came from an electrical engineer several posts later, “From an engineering standpoint there are advantages to higher sampling rates and resolution that can be audible. Higher clock rate spreads the quantization noise over a greater bandwidth, then you can filter out the ultrasonic and obtain better audio-band SNR. It also means the antialias filter on an ADC’s input need not be so steep, though oversampling converters already have that advantage. Greater resolution/dynamic range is probably more important in the studio when you are capturing and mixing a host of sources with widely varying dynamic range”.
My bottom line is that current audio and digital equipment provides us with plenty of bits to waste…if we want to. I say waste them and move up to 96 kHz/24-bits on both the production and reproduction sides of the equation. Going any further than that is overkill as I’ve previously stated. Audio studios are equipped to handle high-res audio production and consumers have formats that can play them back…so why not. It doesn’t hurt anything. And it might…just might…make a difference.
I’m not quite so dogmatic about CDs being the end all format. Let’s take the next step and give Shannon/Nyquist a little breathing room.
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